How to be a fulfilled artist… A Discussion with Tom Abernathy

I’m sitting in my office with the speakerphone on and listening to one of my artistic heroes – Tom Abernathy – speak as his creation The Freak from Destroy All Humans! 2.  Yes, this really happened and it was …. awesome.

Our discussion covers how Tom started his career, his past achievements, and what more he wants to give us.

When I first started speaking with him, I didn’t understand him.  Where was the angst-ridden melancholy that is so familiar in so many artists? Where was the bitterness?  I realized that his artistic process was totally different from that of a TV and movie writer who spends their artistic career in a great deal of isolation punctuated by a team of constructive criticism and clearly defined tasks.  His job touches all facets of the creative process, allowing him to fully realize his creative voice and vision.

Tom’s video game narrative career influenced or decided the dialogue, direction, and casting of many of our most beloved games. His career began in Los Angeles doing coverage – summarizing and reviewing scripts to determine if they were worth making.  He did this job for twenty-five dollars a script.  Through a connection, Joseph Donaldson, Tom was able to get a job writing scripts for Activision Studios.  It was not like today. Tom said, “The writing [for games] was terrible then.”  The video game writing done by the designers and producers who had little need for professional writers at that time.  His first game “Dark Reign 2” did not do well and Tom’s future as a professional game writer was uncertain.  However, something occurred in 2004 that made him eagerly look for work in TV, Film, or Games – he had a baby on the way.

Once again, Joseph Donaldson pushed Tom’s name forward as the head writer.  This was for Destroy All Humans!, a Mars Attacks set in the 1950s where you played the Alien Invader.   Tom had a unique take on both the people who inhabited the world and the Hero of the game – Crypto.

Tom brought the satirical humor to DAH!  Tom created the premise that “the 50s were Ward and June Clever and Eisenhower exterior, but everything going on in their minds must be depraved and wild.” Since Crypto was able to read minds, as he leveled towns and harvested human brains, we got to read and hear the unspoken, providing both comic relief and clues to completing missions.  He wanted Crypto to be “two parts Jack Nicholson and one part Charlton Heston.”

This was revolutionary because unlike the characters in “Doom” and other FPS, Crypto had a personality and a story.  Although Crypto would be insulted to read this, he had real humanity.  This will shock many fans, but “the original [Crypto voice] had a stilted tone like the 50s saucer movies”.  YIKES!   Tom wanted Crypto to be a “cowboy walking id, very American individualist.”  Therefore, it was “Jack Nicholson for id and Charlton Heston for cowboy.” He continued.  “[Crypto] needed the pomposity of Charlton Heston, [he] needed arrogance/confidence with swagger like Soylent Green. TOUGH!”

What was Tom’s role besides being the writer?  Were people lording over him? How much freedom did he have?  It turns out that he had A LOT of artistic control.  Why? “The [game developers] were in Brisbane and [he] only interacted with them by phone and email.”  Therefore, the geographic separation allowed Tom to have immense creative influence that would not have been afforded to him otherwise.  For example, Tom knew what he wanted Crypto to sound like and Tom was able to do the casting.  Yes, creatives – he got to do the casting.

DAH!2 Crypto was pitched as a James Bond/Austin Powers.  There was a pause in the discussion and I had to ask about The Freak and if it was true that he was the voice?  Yes!!! “The voice director, Doug Carrigan, and I realized that, in all our months-long work to get the important parts cast and recorded, there was one reasonably significant role we had totally forgotten about: The Freak. [We] were out of money and time, we had no choice but for me to hop in the booth and perform The Freak myself in what was probably the final 15 minutes of the entire series of recording sessions.  Apologies to Bobcat Goldthwaite; I had zero time to come up with an original take on the character, so I just decided to commit to the idea of Goldthwaite on a really bad acid trip.”  Yes, he did the voice for me and it was …. EPIC!!!

I asked him about the DAH!2 side missions.  “Leanne Taylor did a ton of work [assigned] late in production.”  Leanne Taylor – from me- THANK YOU!!!

I asked him about getting Anthony Stewart Head to play Ponsonby, who would’ve been a get for the time.  This was an interesting story because it not only reflected the creative process for a narrative, but also the limits of their power.  Tom had directed and recorded another actor to play Poncenby.  “I had cast an older man who brought out the humor and after he was recorded, THQ UK Marketing emails – “We want you to cast a ‘name’ actor from the UK so we can sell more units over here.”  I was curious as to Tom’s reaction.  “Not great. No one ever bought a game because someone voice acted in it because you don’t see the actors!”

What’s Happening Now?

“The story is like Matrix meets Fringe. “There are mechs, known as Metamods, that come in both software and hardware version.  The hardware versions are actual 3-D printed action figures as much as ten or twelve inches tall, with 200 coats of paint and more than 20 points of articulation.” I didn’t really understand this until I watched the above video.  There are toys and a video game component.  In other words, this will be really badass.  Most importantly, “you don’t have to pour tons of money into the game to be successful! Jumo the company behind the game- wants players to get value with or without investing money.” There are RPG components, platform, and toy components!

Given Tom’s track record of bringing story and humanity to games, this will be a MUST BUY for the holidays!


Song of the Day: Untitled Self-Portrait (a.k.a. Batman’s Song) (performed by Will Arnett)


I don’t know about you but I’m still pretty angry about what happened yesterday when the Oscar nominations were announced.  Seriously, how could The LEGO Movie not be nominated for best animated film?  It’s almost as if the Academy is prejudiced against plastic toys.

*Le sigh*

So, normally, when I talk about The LEGO Movie, I find an excuse to include the video for Everything is Awesome.  

But you know what?


And today’s song of the day — which is also taken from The LEGO Movie — reflects that point.  As performed by Will Arnett, here’s Batman’s Song (a.k.a. Untitled Self-Portrait.)

All together now…


What I Built in My Spare Time

As I point out in nearly every post, I’m not terribly motivated.  I make posts now and again when the inspiration strikes, and while I sometimes wish I were as prolific a writer as others here, I’ve accepted that it’s just not my thing.  Part of my lack of posts is due to me putting in a ton of overtime at my job, and when I’m at home, I find that I just want to sit in peace and quiet, with no TV on, and so no anime DVDs being watched.  But, just sitting and staring blankly at a computer screen is only fun for the first 7 days or so.  After that, I find I need something to occupy my time.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved Legos.  I had many kits of them, and of course a lot of the fun back then was mixing and matching them to make my own creations.  These days I still love Legos, but they have such amazing kits that I’m quite satisfied building what they show.  In this instance, I really got back into building with Legos a few years ago when I came across a Lego store in a mall.  Never having seen a Lego store before, I went in and was instantly hooked on their Star Wars collections.  I started with the Super Star Destroyer Executor, and haven’t looked back.  The most recent kit that caught my eye was Slave I, which is Boba Fett’s iconic ship.  It was a nearly 2000 piece set, and the final product is about 18 inches tall.  Instead of me rambling on more than I already have, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.  For the most part every picture is the completion of one bag of parts, of which there were 13.


Well worth the $200 and 5 or so days (only doing a couple bags per day) it took me, and it’ll look quite nice with the SSD, R2D2, and the AT-AT that I also own.  My only regret is not getting into this much earlier, since there are several limited edition sets that I’ll never realistically own due to their insanely inflated prices.  Yeah, I’m talking to you Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon and your $5,000 price tag.  Could have had you for a mere $500 when you first came out!

WonderCon 2011 One-Day Experience

It’s been awhile since I attended San Francisco’s WonderCon (it used to be held in Oakland until 2001) and on Saturday, April 2, 2011, I was finally able to check it out once again even if just for a day. This trip into The City to attend WonderCon was actually a last minute deal. I actually bought my One-Day Pass from the WonderCon online site just the day before. I usually like to plan these con excursions in advance so I know which panels to visit and how much to bring to spend. Being a last minute decision I didn’t really plan on spending any amount past what I wanted to eat and panels ended up just being the ones WonderCon had lined-up for upcoming films.

I took BART into the city around 9:30AM and arrived at the Moscone Center South building around 10:20 or so to pick-up my badge. Unlike my experience at Anime Boston 2008 and Anime Expo 2010, getting my badge (even just a one-day one) was pretty painless. Despite a crowd that was already numbering around 10000-plus strong (in my visual estimation and with unofficial total attendance looking to be as high as 40000+) I got through to the pre-register line in less than 10 minutes just in time for me to begin my walk of the Exhibit’s Hall where the dealer tables and exihbitor’s booth were set-up.

For the next hour or so I just walked around the Exhibit Hall just looking at the items for sale and the many comic book related stuff that I used to collect religiously (the thousands upon thousands of bagged and boarded comic books in my house would attest to zealotry). I was surprised to see a lot more indepedent comic book tables. I was also very surprised to notice that the Marvel and DC booths were smaller than I had anticipated. Maybe the bigger booths for these two giants were being saved for San Diego Comic-Con, but with WonderCon getting bigger and bigger each year I thought they’d at least make an effort.

I was very surprised to notice that at least a quarter of the dealer’s tables were dedicated to anime and manga related items. One dealer’s table (more like a booth actually) was all about Gundam and other mecha kits). If I had actually planned ahead for this convention I definitely would’ve dropped at least a couple hundred dollars on several model kits I saw which had me drooling. Below are just a few of the kits that I wouldn’t have minded buying.

Once my time walking around the Exhibit’s Hall was done I knew I needed to get in line for the start of the first film panel that was going to be held at the Esplanade Ballroom. I ended up being in the middle pack of the line despite the line already having wound it’s way outside the Center. The Ballroom looked to have enough space and seats to seat 5000-plus attendees. The line was actually organized very well (I think this is where anime cons could take a lesson from the WonderCon and SDCC organizers). No one was complaining as the volunteers manning the line knew how to keep things organized and actually had the info on whether there was enough room in the Ballroom to accomodate everyone.

The first panel was the upcoming Jon Favreau western and sci-fi mash-up, Cowboys & Aliens, which started around 1pm. There was none of the cast on-stage, but writer-proder Robert Orci and the director himself, Jon Favreau were in attendance. One thing which Favreau said to start off the panel which I (and probably some of the many veteran con attendees) agree on was how WonderCon was beginning to become a major stopover for film studios wanting to promote their big tentpole, genre films.Once the initial talk was over and done with Favreau announced to the crowd that we would be seeing a WonderCon-exclusive 9-minute footage that will never be shown elsewhere with scene that will only be seen once the film was out. This got a huge positive response from the crowd and the footgae didn’t disappoint. It had the right amount of seriousness to the scenes with enough comedy from how these Western-period characters were reacting to a sudden invasion of cosmic proportions.

The rest of the film panels I was able to see were the one’s for the upcoming films Hanna and Immortals. The former had director Joe Wright and the film’s titular star, Saoirse Ronan (who was quite the charming Scottish lass and decided to wear a Wonder Woman tee for her very first comic book convention) on-stage talking about the film. This panel was actually quite good in that several clips from the film were shown to highlight some of the ideas and themes Wright was going for. One thing which got a loud response (positive it seems) was how Wright and Ronan wanted Hanna to showcase the idea of girl empowerment through their use of their minds instead of falling back on Hollywood’s idea of hypersexuality as the one and only way to empower females. To say that Joe Wright didn’t agree with Zack Snyder’s attempt at girl empowerment would be an understatement. I don’t agree with his entire explanation, but then again I don’t think he’s seen Sucker Punch so he’s basing it on the promotional materials.

Tarsem Singh’s Immortals would be the last panel I would see and the film definitely looks to have a 300 vibe to it, but even more fantastical with Greek pantheon getting involved in the matter. A huge response from the female audience roared when the film’s star in Henry Cavill appeared onstage. I like him in Showtime’s The Tudors and still remember him being the young teen in The Count of Monte Cristo, but seeing him onstage made me see what Snyder saw in Cavill. My apprehension in him becoming the next Superman has been tempered now and I hope he does very well in the part.

Well, that final panel ended my day at WonderCon 2011. There were several things I observed which made me hopeful that future WonderCon’s will be something I plan for instead of just trying out. The crowd in attendance by mid-day was bigger than Anime Boston and was almost as large, if not bigger, than Anime Expo 2010. For some the crowd might not have looked that big, but the spacious Moscone Center South building looked as if it could accomodate even more people. The spaciousness of the building allowed for people not to be packed in too tightly while walking around. It is no wonder that Hollywood studios are now seeing WonderCon as an alternate destination, or at least a complementary one, to San Diego Comic-Con to promote their films.

San Diego Comic-Con will always be the big destination but with that event becoming so huge the last half decade other venues became places that could accomodate the studios. One thing I heard people (especially bloggers and entertainment reporters) about San Diego Comic-Con was how many films were being promoted and how those attending looking to write about it could never get to see all of them. This wasn’t the case with WonderCon. Everyone who got into the Esplanade Ballroom could see all the film panels and some never left their chairs once the room opened up.

While a One-Day Pass may seem enough to see all that WonderCon had to offer I think the next time I attend I shall plan ahead and get a 3-Day Pass instead to get the full experience. I will say that this day was a good practice for when I attend Anime Boston 2011 in less than 3 weeks. Here’s to hoping that the organizers of Anime Boston continue to get better with their logistics. As much as I prefer anime and manga to comic books nowadays, the anime/manga convention organizers still have much to learn from the comic book ones in the logistical department. All in all, it was a good time to spend a warm, sunny Saturday.

Oh, while I was walking the Hall I did take a picture of something that I thought Lisa Marie probably would’ve found too cute, but since I decided on not spending any cash at the Hall I didn’t get her an example of Uglydoll:

See you at Anime Boston 2011 next!

Scenes I Love: South Park Makes Handjobs Fun Again

I was first introduced to the Shake Weight by my friend Shaista (who, by the way, is not only really funny and smart but like totally and completely gorgeous too).    At the time, I was telling her about how much I love the Broadview Security Commercial where A.J. attempts to break into a house while the homeowner goes, “A.J?  A.J?”  And while Shaista agreed with me that A.J. was indeed an enigmatic bad boy who played by his own set of rules, she still claimed that the Shake Weight commercial was far more memorable.

When I actually did see the Shake Weight commercial, I found myself staring dumbfounded at the screen.  Finally, I think I managed to say, “Uhmm, don’t they realize that they all look like they’re…”  Well, anyway — instead of me going into all the details, let’s just watch one of the commercials:

Well, yes…other than mentioning that my arms must have been in really great shape back in high school, what can I say about that?  Luckily, I don’t have to say anything about that because last week, South Park said it for me.  Here’s the actual “scene that I love,” the Shake Weight commercial from Creme Fraiche episode of South Park:

By the way,  just to keep things fair, I’d just like to point out that there’s a Shake Weight for Men too. 

My New Friends

Hi.  I just wanted to take a few minutes to introduce everyone to my new friends, Domo and Almighty Cthulhu…

Aren’t they just adorable?  Cthulhu arrives yesterday and Domo showed up earlier today.  They’ve already gotten a chance to meet some of my other friends like the Blues Brothers…

And Virgil The Alien Poet…

Also present was Dr. Zaius…

Dr. Zaius insisted on being accompanied by his personal bodyguard, an old school G.I. Joe.  Pull on Joe’s dog tags and he’ll say something that sounds like, “Brewlughajthghtjewmrehawhah…”  I’m guessing he was a bit more articulate 40 years ago.

Kinky Friedman, who I voted for in 2006 when he was running for governor of Texas, also showed up.  Press Kinky’s back and he says stuff like, “I’m not against the death penalty.  I’m against the wrong person gettin’ executed.”

Last but not least, they were met by Donald Trump.  Push Donald’s back and he’ll say stuff like, “Do you think you’re a good leader?  I don’t.  You let everyone walk all over you and you haven’t taken responsibility for your own mistakes.  For that reason, I’m afraid I have to say, ‘You’re fired.'”  Seriously, he says ALL of that!  Other phrases: “I should fire myself just for having you around” and “Brand yourself and toot your own horn.”

So far, at least, I think Domo is fitting in a little bit better than Cthulhu.  I have a feeling that Cthulhu and Donald Trump are going to end up locking horns because they both like to be in charge.  Me, I’m putting my money on Cthulhu.

Finally, in the end, what else can I say other than thank you to my friend and co-conspirator, R-Lee.  Not only does he allow me to post my random and occasionally heretical thoughts on his site but he’s helped to bring me even closer to almighty Cthulhu. 🙂

A Quickie From Lisa Marie: The Best Freakin’ Commercial Ever!

If you follow me on twitter then you can probably guess what I consider to be “the best freakin’ commercial ever.”  It premiered (in its full form) during the last Super Bowl and it made me smile whenever I saw it on come on TV.  It was a commercial that I loved so much that it took me a few times to realize it was actually selling something (a car, in this instance).  Up until then, I just thought the commercial was a showcase for Sockmonkey and his friend, the freaky little red thing.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Kia Sorrento “How You Like Me Now” ad campaign.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying you should buy a Kia and this commercial left me with absolutely no desire to trade in my beloved Chrysler Sebring convertible but it did inspire me to order sockmonkeys for myself, my older sister Erin, and my niece Shannon. 

As great as the song (How You Like Me Now, performed by Heavy) is and as much charisma as that little red monster thingee displays, Sockmonkey really is the star of the commercial.  Seriously, I might actually watch the Daily Show if they fired smug, aging badly, oddly devoted to Stephen Colbert, old Jon Stewart and replaced him with tattooed, fast-driving, water-skiing, mad dancing, fast driving Sockmonkey.

(Yes, I said fast driving twice!  Because that monkey really drives fast!  And, uhmm, not because — as some people claim — I have a five-second attention span…)

The last time I saw this commercial, my friend Jeff commented, “I bet that monkey gets a lot of tail.”

“Silly!” I replied, “He’s already got a tail!”

Later, I realized I may have misunderstood his meaning.

(True story)

But anyway, it’s a fun little commercial whether it makes you want to drive a Kia or not.  And, a definite plus, it’s not half as disturbing as those old Calvin Klein jean commercials.

Vocaloid Nenderoid Petit aka J-Crack!

One of my newest obsessions. Newest in that I’ve only started collecting them in the last year or so. My newest obsession feeds the growing otaku growing inside me. This awesome and criminally cute little things are the “nendoroid” line of anime-based figures from Good Smile Company of Japan. This particular group is of the smaller nendoroid petit line and using the Vocaloid characters. Vocaloid is a singing synthesizer application software which has become the rage in Japan and especially those who are very into the anime/manga scene.

These have become the replacement to those damnable Pokemon’s everyone were trying to catch a decade ago. I do believe I’d rather have these than those weird looking critters. So, finally receiving this set in the mail today has made my inner otaku quite happy indeed. >.<